Residents and visitors in Hawaii were sent into a panic after officials accidentally sent an emergency alert warning of a "ballistic missile threat." It took officials 30 minutes to send a correction.
|What happens in your brain...in clear, concise language.|
From Healing the Brain: "Wounds that Time Alone Won’t Heal The Biology of Stress."
Imagine you are a zebra grazing on the plains of Africa. It's midday. The sun is bright, the food is plentiful.
Suddenly you sense an attack. A lion is chasing you. Its fight or flight in action.
Your brain tells your body to prepare for a fight or take flight. The body responds by preparing extra hormones to create more energy and by increasing the rate the heart pumps blood to the muscles. For most animals, this stress reaction lasts for just a short time and it saves lives.
As a body is preparing for fight or flight, however, practically all systems, such as digestion, physical growth, and warding off diseases are placed on hold. This means that people for whom stress has become a way of life are endangering their overall health. Researchers have learned by studying primates whose systems are similar to human beings that those who learn to have control over their lives and are able to reduce or avoid stress live longer and healthier lives.
Are zebras better equipped to deal with stress than humans? No. However, according to Dr. Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, "For a zebra, stress is three minutes of some screaming terror running from a lion. After the chase, either it's over or they are." On the other hand humans, he says, have constructed a network of social stressors. Since we are obliged to live in this framework, stress builds up.
How do the brain and the body react to stress? Stress, such as the threat of attack, forces various changes in the body. First, adrenaline causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure so that blood can be sent to muscles faster. Second, the brain’s hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal gland (specifically the adrenal cortex) to produce cortisol.
This stress hormone, a longer-acting steroid, helps the body to mobilize energy. However, prolonged exposure to cortisol can damage virtually every part of the body. Chronic high blood pressure can cause blood vessel damage and the long-term shutdown of digestion can lead to ulcers.